This month's question: What challenges and benefits does your co-op see from serving a military base?
Answer: Serving the largest United States Coast Guard (USCG) base from our small, 4,000-member cooperative has its benefits, but with those benefits come unique challenges. The Coast Guard is Kodiak Electric Association’s largest single consumer, making up about 20% of our total sales. Their demand is consistent and predictable, unlike seafood processors, which make up our largest load but can fluctuate based on things like fishing quota restrictions, weather and timing of fish returns. USCG load helps us with not only budgeting and cash flow but also planning generation maintenance around peak load periods. The base’s rescue assets—consisting of planes, helicopters and cutters—may be deployed at a moment’s notice when duty calls. These events most often coincide with severe weather, which challenges KEA with potential outages. Building a system that is resilient enough to provide dependable service for rescue missions during major weather events is always a priority for KEA. Unfortunately, given the harsh environment, power outages are inevitable. Like a hospital or other emergency service organizations, the USCG base is also a high priority for power restoration. Unlike a hospital, the USCG base is not one building requiring power but an entire base, adding to the complexity of the restoration process. It is a unique challenge, and at KEA, we hold ourselves to a high standard to provide power to such an important resource.
Answer: Since 2008, High West Energy (HWE) has had the opportunity to serve F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. But our involvement with the military began in 1962, when we powered 98 missile sites. Sixty years later, we continue to support the military, serving F.E. Warren as well as supporting military functions. We have built great relationships with military members and leaders, which helps us serve the base to the best of our abilities. We provide reliable operations, maintenance, renewals and replacements because we know these lines and equipment are vital for the defense of our nation. Most recently, F.E. Warren Air Force Base was the first base chosen to begin implementing the Sentinel weapon system, previously known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. This system will replace the Minuteman III missile system and greatly benefit this area of Wyoming, Colorado and western Nebraska. HWE has been involved in discussions about what this process will be like and what will be expected of us, which is a great benefit. While serving a military base may seem challenging, members of our team regularly communicate with military operations as it takes great technology and information to collaborate with the facility. Our military serves this country, and it is our goal to serve those who protect us by providing safe and reliable services.
Answer: Verendrye Electric Cooperative has three federal contracts dealing with the Minot Air Force Base (MAFB). Two are energy delivery contacts, MAFB and ICBM missile field, that have been in place since the 1960s. The third is a utility privatization contract to own, operate and maintain the distribution system on the base. Cutting red tape can be a major challenge. Over several years, we’ve become more familiar with their processes. Another major challenge is security. The MAFB is the only dual nuclear base in the United States. This means there are two legs of the nuclear triad in Minot: bombers and land-based missiles. Getting employees on the base, dealing with cybersecurity or handling of controlled unclassified information can be challenging. The benefits outweigh the challenges. We are really good at owning and operating a distribution system, and the base has not only allowed us to pick up a significant revenue stream we can count on but has also allowed us to add employees and equipment (at no cost to the balance of the membership) that can be used off-base. In April, we used our MAFB crews to help restore power after an ice storm damaged 500 poles. Our MAFB contracts are a win for the base, because we do a better job in regards to reliability than the federal government did. And it’s a win for the balance of the Verendrye membership.
Answer: At Sandhills Utility Services, our sole purpose is to distribute power and provide other distribution services to one of the largest military installations in the country: Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We strive to embrace the military mindset of the “mission first" motto. In our efforts to uphold that commitment, we are proud that one-third of our employees are Air Force or Army veterans. These staff members are able to work in the fields that they were trained in, making their jobs easier to learn and more satisfying. Our most important mission is to take care of soldiers and their families on the installation. With so many of our team having been soldiers and military families, this is a mission they hold close to their hearts. There are many character traits instilled in military personnel that make them excellent candidates for employment at our co-op. Serving Fort Bragg means our talent pool includes many individuals with those exact traits. Their “can do" attitude and attention to detail allows us to function at a high level with a smaller staff. As we continue to grow as an organization, we are constantly looking for new talent, and hiring the local military personnel are a perfect fit to meet the needs of our customers while helping those who bravely serve this country. It's a classic “win-win!"
Answer: At Gulf Coast Electric, the benefit of serving a military base, first and foremost, is the privilege of supporting the freedom and the security of our great nation. As an electric cooperative, we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to take such an active role in participating in and supporting our nation. It is our honor as a systems owner at Tyndall Air Force Base to play a primary role in the redesign and rebuild of Tyndall, the largest military construction contract ever awarded by the Air Force. The challenge for us came in the form of a category-5 hurricane named Michael, which made landfall on October 10, 2018, with Tyndall AFB being ground zero. The devastation caused by Hurricane Michael has been difficult for all who were affected. Immediately following the hurricane, many of the men and women who support and protect our freedom were relocated due to the significant damage to Tyndall AFB. After four long years of recovery from the storm, the base is preparing to rebuild bigger and stronger than ever. As Gulf Coast Electric continues to play an integral role in the rebuild of Tyndall AFB, our commitment to excellence in service remains our goal.